Six Months Since the Sludge

By Steven Libowitz   |   July 12, 2018

On Monday morning, exactly half a year since the debris flow devastated Montecito and destroyed lives and lifestyles, La Casa de Maria posted an update to its website about the ongoing recovery efforts. The retreat center located just below the San Ysidro Ranch was hard hit by the January 9 mudslide, as nine of its buildings were swept away by the water and debris, including the on-site dining facilities, and the landscape dramatically altered. (The update included a picture with enlarged photos of two of the structures on easels in their respective locations to help orient visitors and observers to the re-contoured property.)

The center is still closed, the ongoing programs and special events either canceled or moved off site while plan for renewal and rebirth continues, but the debris has been cleared from the property, and the soil that remains has been saved to be used in rebuilding and reshaping the land. The guest rooms are being repaired, and the dining room and kitchen are up first before repairs to the lounge and the chapel begin. As part of the process, La Casa de Maria is undergoing a visioning method that will be used to determine the path forward and inform the design of the built environment, and the public might be surveyed too. The current focus is on interim re-opening efforts of the Center for Spiritual Renewal and the dormitory and meeting space at Casa San Ysidro, as they sit on the undamaged part of the property. The plan is to have information about what will be available and potential tours of the property ready by September.

More changes were recently afoot as Steve Jacobsen stepped down as director with deputy Anne Price moving up to take on the role of acting director during the transition of both place and personnel. Meanwhile, volunteer work party opportunities began this spring with more planned for summer and fall. Check the website ( if you want to be involved. From this writer’s vantage point, it will be beyond exciting to have this anchor of the Montecito spiritual community open in any form and fashion once again.

Danjo San Days

Radhule Weininger, Ph.D., is the clinical psychologist and teacher of Buddhist meditation and Buddhist psychology who serves as the guiding teacher of One Dharma Sangha’s multiple ongoing weekly donation-based gatherings, as well as the founding teacher of Mindful Heart Programs here in Santa Barbara. But once a year, Weininger and her husband – palliative care physician Michael Kearney, who combines medical treatment with meditation and other spiritual approaches – ups the ante a bit further by their Rinzai Zen Monk friend, Danjo San, from Hiroshima, Japan, to spend a month with them here in town. The theme for this year’s visit is “The Gift”, an appreciation of our connection to the sacred, to the great mystery, to the field of awareness, which is perhaps more integral in this “time of confusion and fear”.

Danjo San will be on hand for all of Weininger’s upcoming events this week, including the regular meditations on Monday, July 16, at St. Michael’s Church in Isla Vista; Tuesday, July 17, at The Museum of Natural History’s MacVeagh House; and Thursday, July 19, at The Sacred Space in Summerland, when he will join with Radhule to lead the programs and talks. He will also be the centerpiece for the monthly Solidarity and Compassion evening at Trinity Episcopal Church, which Weininger has been hosting since shortly after the 2016 election. The July 18 theme will be “Music and Poetry of Engagement” with Danjo San, Anahita and Scott Claassen playing music and the revered local poets Teddy Macker and Dave Richo reading verses.

The following week, Danjo San will be leading the Heart of Mindfulness Retreat with the Weiningers for the third year in a row, do during the sold out July 12-15 retreat at Mount Calvary Monastery, Marjorie Schuman will be teaching the weekly sitting groups on Tuesday, July 24, and Thursday, July 26. In upcoming events, Weininger is joined by Montecito author-writer Diana Raab (Writing for Bliss) in leading a “Mindfulness & Journaling to Open Your Heart” workshop at the Museum of Natural History on Saturday, August 4, and conducts a “Heartwork: The Path to Self-Compassion” weekend retreat based on her recent book of the same name at Mount Calvary Monastery August 17-19. For information on any of the events, visit

Altering Your Altar Space

Roxy Angel Von Straussenburg hosts a Sacred Objects Craft Project workshop at Center of the Heart this Saturday, July 14. All the materials will be provided for art projects featuring a high-quality soy-blessed candle and a heart chakra healing crystal bracelet during the 10:30 am to 3 pm workshop, items aimed at enriching an altar space and to wear as a reminder to “love yourself as a sacred being of strength and divine power” and tap into the quality of peace. The hands-on day will also incorporate a little movement and ritual to engage mind, body, and spirit. A light lunch is also included in the fee of $35 in advance, $45 at the door. Artistic skills are not required; simply bring a willingness to learn something new. More information and online registration at, or call (805) 964-4861.

Sunburst’s Healing Symposium

Explore tools for greater body/mind/spirit awareness to bring more balance and vitality into your life at Sunburst Sanctuary’s wellness weekend July 21-22. The retreat features multi-disciplinary practitioners coming together from various fields, each offering strategies to help improve spiritual, emotional, and physical wellness. Among the modalities are chiropractic, nutrition, acupuncture, Reiki, ayurveda, massage, aromatherapy, art therapy, meditation, yoga, stress relief, and “Yogananda’s Vibrant Health Eating Plan”. The sliding scale donation of $100 to $150 includes nourishing vegetarian meals and access to the soul-expanding oak-dotted rolling hills of the 4,000-acre space accessed via 7200 S. Highway 1, Lompoc. On-site lodging and camping options are also available for an additional donation. Reservations requested by Friday, July 13, at, or call (805) 736-6528.

Soup’s on

Personal growth and healing event opportunities are plentiful at Yoga Soup this week, beginning with one of Shane Thunder‘s periodic 432hz Sound Healing sessions of Friday evening, July 13. The first of two (weeks apart) Saturday Contact Improv Fundamentals workshops with Aaron Musicant takes place July 14 from 1 to 4 pm and is open to people of all experience levels who want to learn or practice safety, weight sharing, core connection, rolling point of contact, spiraling, lifting, falling, and more – useful for both Dance Tribe and Yoga Soup’s own new First Friday Ecstatic Dances. That same night, studio owner Eddie Ellner offers one his own Ecstatic Breathwork events, featuring a few minutes of gentle yoga followed by an hour of breathing to a selection of music designed to accelerate and amplify the breathe. Finally, Britta Gudmunson, the yoga teacher/musician/food expert who also leads the InCourage Chorus at Yoga Soup, teaches The Art of Mindful Eating, an experiential evening workshop to help those wanting to create a spiritual practice with food, on Wednesday night, July 18. Yoga Soup is located at 28 Parker Way. Visit or call (805) 965-8811.


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